Michael Ramsey on the Incarnation

The beginning of Advent is a good time to take up again one of the central themes in the Anglican tradition, the Incarnation of Christ our Lord. We wrote several posts dealing with the topic in the past, among others the following:

Incarnation, part I, Gregory Neal
Incarnation, part II, Jerzy Nowosielski
St. Isaac on Incarnation and Deification, Hilarion Alfeyev
Jesus, the Word Incarnate, Mark McIntosh 

Today we post a reflection by Michael Ramsey (1904-1988), the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury. We took if from Through the Year with Michael Ramsey where it is today’s reflection (December 1).

It is an Anglican characteristic to make the Incarnation central in theology.

Now, making the Incarnation central has its dangers. There is always the danger of not giving enough emphasis to the doctrine of the Cross and redemption from sin, it has, I believe, been the essential role of the Evangelical element in Anglicanism to keep alive the emphasis upon the Cross—the reality of sin, forgiveness, atonement. In fact our theologians who have emphasised the In­carnation have themselves been men who have known very deeply what the Cross means, and of course wherever the Eucharist is cen­tral the Cross cannot fail to be central too. Nevertheless, the main trend of Anglican theology has been incarnational.


Archbishop Ramsey meeting Pope Paul VI

What has this meant in practice? Two things. One is that while Anglican theology has of course upheld the uniqueness of the Incarnation, it has also been ready to see the place of Christ in the cosmic process: Christ as both the climax of the operation of the divine Logos all through nature and history, and Christ as the heavenly Saviour breaking into the world. And in a new kind of way the emphasis on the cosmic Christ in Teilhard de Chardin is in line with a good deal of previous Anglican theology, though our theology has never risen to the deeply mystical way in which he grasps and expresses the truth.

The other thing the emphasis on the Incarnation has meant is this: that Anglican theology has again and again been ready—while upholding the uniqueness of Christ and the holy scriptures—to see the working of the divine Logos in the world around. For instance, when in the last century the belief in divine revelation found itself confronted by new developments in the secular sphere, like his­torical criticism, evolutionary biology, and so on, it did not say these things were of the devil. No, it was ready to say that these things are themselves part of the working of the divine Logos in the human mind, reason, and conscience, and it is possible for us to be learning from the contemporary world even where the world seems unpromising, because the divine Logos who is working in the world around us is the same Logos who is incarnate in Christ.

Source:  Margaret Duggan ed., Through the Year with Michael Ramsey, 1977, p. 233

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